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Piglets from cryopreserved embryos

First Offspring from Super-Cooled Pig Embryos

By Tara Weaver
March 16, 1998

Agricultural Research Service scientists have produced the first live offspring from super-cooled pig embryos, potentially creating new opportunities for the $11-billion-a-year swine industry.

The super-cooling technology, called vitrification, cools the embryos in about 3 seconds in liquid nitrogen without forming ice crystals.

Rapid cooling to prevent ice crystals from forming in or around the embryos while stabilizing the cells is crucial to being able to store them and have them develop into live pigs later, according to John R. Dobrinsky, a research physiologist at the ARS Germplasm and Gamete Physiology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.

Since the mid-1980's, the animal industry has routinely used very cold temperatures to preserve embryos of several livestock species, especially cattle. But because of physiological and cellular differences in pig embryos, the technology wasn't available to the swine industry.

The new vitrification technology opens the door to global expansion for the swine industry. It will allow producers to import and export valuable breeding stocks and unique germplasm without worrying about shipping live animals.

What does the breakthrough mean for consumers? Dobrinsky says it will enable production and conservation of a more genetically superior stock, ensuring safe, wholesome and healthy pork products for the consumer.

An in-depth story on this research appears in the March issue of Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contact: John R. Dobrinsky, USDA-ARS Germplasm and Gamete Physiology Laboratory, BARC-East, Building 200, Room 22, Beltsville, MD 20705, phone (301) 504-8134, fax (301)504-5123,

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